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Is Turkey ditching Saudi Arabia for Iran?

The recent string of high-level meetings between Iranian and Turkish officials suggests that the two regional powerhouses may be moving closer on Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shake hands following a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Ankara on August 12, 2016.  / AFP / ADEM ALTAN        (Photo credit should read ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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TEHRAN, Iran — In recent years, tension between Iran and Turkey has been rooted in differences over regional developments rather than bilateral disagreements. Indeed, if one reviews the exchanges between the two neighbors during the past two decades, one can see that clashing policy toward regional issues has been virtually the only source of conflict. Now, however, more than five years after the beginning of the crisis in Syria, evidence pointing to a decline in Iranian-Turkish disagreements over the war-torn country is beginning to emerge.

Though one of Turkey’s main demands has been that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, he has yet to be toppled and the crisis in Syria has continued. Turkey’s tacit acceptance of Assad remaining in power originally came at a high price for Ankara, but it has gradually tried to adapt itself to new realities. This process of change in Turkey’s foreign policy has intensified in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July. One week prior to the putsch, in late June, Turkey officially apologized to Russia over the downing of a Russian fighter jet, thus ending the self-made controversy with Moscow. Moreover, in August, on his first trip abroad since the failed coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited St. Petersburg, where he discussed bilateral and regional issues with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Since then, there have been rumors about a possible change in Turkey’s strategic approach toward Syria, especially considering Russia’s clear stance on the issue.

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